Subject Tests 2017

As a parent so succinctly put it yesterday, there is a lot of chatter around the subject tests about who should be taking what and when. I love that term to describe it because everyone’s saying a lot, but no one really seems to know the value of the subject tests. I myself have heard large amounts of variety of which tests are important and how high a score is high enough.

However, I am of the mindset that there are two general types of students who should be taking the subject tests:

1. The students whose schools or majors require them. This is a very short list in the grand scheme of things. Many test prep companies maintain lists, but I would recommend these only as a jumping off point. Do your homework and be sure to research each school on your list (just in case). Generally speaking, these are the elite schools and the hardest majors to get accepted into (think Engineering @ MIT).

2. The students who want another indicator of academic success. Standardized tests are the safest, most numerical way to demonstrate you’ll be able to hang academically at a top school, whether they’re ACT/SAT, AP Tests, or Subject Tests. If your GPA is lower than the schools you most want to attend, you might want to supplement with successful test scores. If your math is strong but you won’t be able to take the Calculus AP exam until your senior year (and therefore past when you’ll be submitting you application to colleges), you might want to supplement with a successful Math Level 2 Subject Test.

We must recall too, that time is zero-sum, as in: you can’t do everything. If you are already doing great things (you’ve started a club, you have a unique hobby, you’re a leader in your community, etc.), or maybe you’re taking too many APs already or just want to spend more time with your family or friends, then you’re maybe trading one asset for another, and not actually doing much for your application or life. While it might add value to your application, it might take away something else. (By the way, this is a GREAT question for a guidance counselor or Independent Education Consultant).

However, if you like math or any of the other subject test subjects, and another high score will only help your chances of admission, it’s a great test to be studying for over the summer, when you have the time and energy to spend on it.

And if you are one of those two types of students who could benefit from taking the test(s), it is highly recommended you do well on them. After all, what’s the point of even sitting in a high school classroom for one hour on a Saturday if you’re not going to do well? That’s wasted time and energy (and money). If you’re going to take it, do well.

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